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Arkansas braces for dangerous weather as storms rake Midwest

Tornadoes and Wind StormsWeather WarningsNational Weather Service

Residents in seven states across the central U.S. braced for twisters as a line of spring storms raked the Midwest on Sunday afternoon, with forecasters warning that severe tornadoes could strike Arkansas later in the evening.

[Updated, 5:08 p.m. PDT, April 27: At 5:32 p.m. Central time, a tornado destroyed a fire station and caused other damage in the small town of Quapaw, population 914, in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma, Ottawa County Emergency Management officials told the Los Angeles Times.

The Associated Press reported that two people had been killed, but neither the  emergency management office nor sheriff's office would confirm that to The Times. The sheriff's office said emergency officials were in “search and rescue mode.” Phone numbers for the local police and fire agencies rang without answer.

In addition to reports of damaging hail, a small tornado damaged roofs in southern Iowa, and winds as strong as 70 mph uprooted trees and toppled a tractor-trailer near Kansas City, Mo., according to the National Weather Service.

One person was seriously injured by flying debris in Appanoose County, Iowa, said Mike Lamb, an emergency management coordinator for Appanoose, Davis, Lucas and Monroe counties.

No other injuries had been reported as of Sunday afternoon.

Tornado watches stretched from Nebraska to northern Texas and Louisiana. 

The weather delayed the morning start of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon by two hours before the race got underway with a record 26,000 runners.

National Weather Service forecasters warned that eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas were in the greatest danger Sunday evening, with those areas facing the possibility of 80 mph winds, tornadoes and baseball-sized hail as a low-pressure front pushed a line of storms across the Great Plains.

"The greatest tornado risk will be centered on Arkansas, where a few strong and long-track tornadoes will be possible through tonight," the National Weather Service said in a severe weather briefing.

Winds and hail weren't the only threat forecasters were worried about: Just behind the line of storms marching across the Midwest was a "dry line" where humidity drops suddenly, bringing widespread wildfire risks. As a result, the National Weather Service has issued red-flag fire warnings stretching from southern Nebraska through Texas and southern New Mexico.

Sunday's storms came on the three-year anniversary of the day that 122 tornadoes scoured parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia, killing 316 people, according to the Associated Press.

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